Towards an Evolutionary Synthetic Biology
Gaucher, Eric A.
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Evolution is the unifying theory behind biology, and has entered the mainstream of computational and molecular biology as a result of genomics. Nevertheless, evolutionary ideas today only barely influence the practice of molecular sciences. Innovation in many areas will be required before evolutionary analyses provide utility to biomedicine and biotechnology. Research in our laboratory attempts to enhance our understanding of evolutionary processes and structure-function relationships in the long-term, while also generating novel biomolecules having technological and therapeutic value in the short-term. If successful, these innovations will add utility to genome sequence data far beyond that found in comparative genomics. Using information extracted from molecular evolutionary analyses to guide the engineering of proteins is an innovative addition to existing methods. If evolution-guided engineering can deliver biomolecular properties not otherwise attainable with traditional engineering/directed evolution techniques, then this approach will have wide utility. The above activities form the foundation of our attempt to develop an evolutionary synthetic biology. We are energized by the prospect of joining evolutionary biology and synthetic biology. Synthetic biology appears to mean different things to different scientific disciplines. Surprisingly, however, biologists seem to have taken a backseat to chemists and engineers in the development of this field. It seems apparent that synthetic biology would stand to benefit if molecular evolution contributed to its progress.